Last Christmas was supposed to be awesome. Our life had been full of months of difficulty, and our kids bore the brunt of it. I wanted them to have some normalcy, even some fun memories.
Instead they got a mom with strep throat and a dad stretched thin from caring for four (ages four and under) alone. They tried decorating the tree together, but it didn’t exactly go as planned. As I sat upstairs, alone in my bed, all I could do was pray: “God, please give us some relief. Please let our kids have some fun memories from this year.” This had not been the first time that we found ourselves in this position, and it wasn’t the last.
For reasons known only to God, our family has walked through some deep valleys over the course of many months. The difficulty has ranged from nearly dying to emotional issues that have taken up way too much of our time. With each wave of difficulty, I’ve had to reconcile my own desire for good things and the reality of my circumstances. I’ve had to reconcile my longing to give my kids normalcy with the regular upheaval that is our life. I’ve had to reconcile my expectations of “the good life” with the life we live that often doesn’t feel very good.
We are a longing people, aren’t we? Even in the best of times, there is always something lurking around the corner, waiting to bring the house down. Even when life is rosy for us personally, even a cursory glance at the world around us reminds us that we are far from Eden.
Christmas brings to mind for me a flood of longings. In my early years of being a Christian, the longing was one of excitement at celebrating the birth of the Savior. As an adult, the longing is one of deep desire for Christ to come again. Christmas reminds me that I’m not the only one who has longed for good things. I’m not the only one who has longed for all to be made right. Christmas reminds me that I’m not the first parent who has wanted better for my kids, but found myself coming up short.
Maybe you wish you could give your daughter the doll she wants this year—you are not alone. Maybe you wish you could give your kids their grandparents this Christmas—you are not alone. Maybe you wish you could give your kids stability or a life free of suffering—you are not alone.
Jesus came because this world is utterly broken and in need of redemption. He came because our souls are ravaged by sin and in need of cleansing. He came to quench the thirst and hunger that gnaws at us every single day. With all of our sorrow over not being able to meet the needs of our kids, Jesus shows up and says: “I am enough.”
One of the hardest things for me this past year and a half has been the uncertainty of our life. We even planned a much-needed family vacation with trepidation because our life had been so unstable for so long. We begged God to let it happen. We planned. We packed. And in God’s kindness, we went on that vacation and had a wonderful time. But I know it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes even the best plans find their match in the brokenness of this world, and we are left bereft and confused. It can leave us wondering if we are actually desiring the wrong things. If I just didn’t want it so badly, maybe it wouldn’t be so hard to accept?
The issue is not about the desire. Desire for good things for our kids is good. In fact, it’s God-like (Matt. 7:7–11). Our kids learn to trust in a God who loves them and cares for them by the way we parent. As Jesus says, how much more can we trust God to provide for us, knowing that even earthly parents meet their kids’ needs? A parent who works to provide for her kids in abundance is actually telling her children what God is like (Is. 49:15). But at the end of the day we will come up short. Even our best attempts won’t meet all their needs (or all their desires). In the same way that we tell our kids what God is like, we also tell them there is only one God—and we aren’t him. When we find ourselves coming up short in giving our kids good things, we can trust that he has already given them the greatest thing they could ever want or need—his Son, Jesus. Jesus is the gift that meets all of their longings (and ours, too). Even if we give them nothing else this Christmas, if we give them Jesus we will have given them everything (Acts 2:38–39).
So we desire, work, and pray with hope. We might not be able to meet all their needs every day (who can, really?), but God is able. We live in broken world that is crying out for redemption, where dreams are deferred and plans go awry. The only certainty we have in this parenting journey is that God is good and he loves us more than we ever could love him (or anyone else). The Messiah has come. He is the best gift we could receive or give. One day he is coming again, and when he does even our greatest longings will be met in him. Give your kids Jesus this Christmas. If you have one gift to give them, make it him.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION/ APPLICATION:
What are the ways you struggle with what you have to give your kids (whether physically, spiritually, or even emotionally)?
How does Jesus’ coming give you hope when you find yourself coming up short?
What are some ways you can “give your kids Jesus” this Christmas season?
Courtney Reissig is a wife, mom, and writer. She is the author of The Accidental Feminist and Glory in the Ordinary. In addition to writing, she enjoys teaching the bible to women in her church and seeing them grow to love God’s word for themselves. When she’s not wrangling her four sons, she also enjoys running, coffee, and visiting with friends.